Like lots of New Ferry residents, I have been highly frustrated by the length of time it has taken to get New Ferry rebuilt. Problems began shortly after the blast itself, as the then Prime Minister called a general election which seemed to draw the attention from ministers who had previously promised action. I have written to the Government on a number of occasions, to successive Secretaries of State asking them to provide specific funding for New Ferry, as was done with Salisbury after the chemical attack and in other locations that have suffered one-off events that local authorities should not have to tackle alone. The Government have never chosen to help, which in my opinion has slowed down the rebuild. I will keep asking them to help, regardless of responses to date.
Meanwhile, I have supported Wirral Council’s application to the Future High Streets fund, to bring more resources in to help New Ferry. I hope that the Government will announce the result of this application without much more wait. No doubt, the COVID-19 outbreak has also meant further delay. However, in August, I understand from Wirral Council that we will see further demolitions on and round the blast site, to remove the rest of the damaged buildings that cannot be repaired. Once this is done, those spaces may be available – for a short period before the redevelopment – for the community to use, and I know that there has been some discussion about what this might look like. If you have ideas, please do get in touch and I can pass on to local community groups and the council.
Since the blast, Wirral Council has been working on the rebuild plan. This has culminated in applying for planning permission for new buildings on the basis of the consultation held with local residents. The three outline planning applications are in with the planning department, waiting for clearance. This is the legal process that the Local Authority has to go through in order to get permission for the rebuild. Once these consents are in place, the Council will then be able to instigate Compulsory Purchase process, to acquire outstanding properties they have been unable to purchase via negotiation. The diversity of building owners in New Ferry has also been a consistent challenge in getting regeneration agreed. This is a problem shared by many town centres, and I do think Local Authorities powers to regenerate areas that desperately need it should be looked at.
Community groups, traders in New Ferry and others have worked extremely hard to keep New Ferry going, and I have supported their efforts. I worked with the New Ferry Community Land Trust to apply to the Liverpool City Region for funds to begin a community development, which is now moving forward with the purchase of a building for local development. The CLT have undertaken a number of projects to make the town centre feel more looked after. They can be contacted on email@example.com in case anyone would like to get involved. Local traders have also recently commissioned murals which draw attention to the brilliant small businesses in New Ferry, which look amazing. It has been great to see small businesses diversify during the COVID19 outbreak, many providing a real community service to those shielding and supporting residents to stay at home and stay local. Looking to the future, I have also been working closely with New Ferry Rangers FC to progress a rebuild of the Bebington Youth Club so that it can become a proper centre for local sporting and community activity. Wirral Council have worked very hard to get this project off the ground in order to draw in funding from sporting and other organisations, and it should form a welcome part of rebuilding other parts of New Ferry in addition to the blast site and the town centre itself.
There is lots to be proud of going on in New Ferry. Yet it is deeply frustrating to still live with a town centre in a state of disrepair. So we must all keep pressing the council and the Government to do more until it is rebuilt. Please do get in touch with me at Alison.firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss it further. For reasons that I am sure will be understood (mainly time!) I don’t usually get involved in long debates or discussions on social media. But I am always happy to speak to constituents over the phone, or in person once we are able to.